Coupling Functional Assessment and Technique, Part 2: Functional Movement

By Marc Evans (www.evanscoaching.com) – Exclusively for TriSports.com

Functional movement screening is a technique of examining an athlete’s ability to move in a asymmetrical fashion and to control actions (stability). The examination can help determine which body areas are functioning normally or lacking in mobility, flexibility or strength. And once limiters and normal patterns are established therapeutic training can be prescribed more individually.


Torbjorn Sindballe Photo by Delly Carr

Testing and evaluation of mobility, flexibility and stability is performed through a series of movements, examinations of muscle length and core assessment that ensure validity and reliability. Doing so allows for comparison over time and for the purpose of assessing status quo – progression, or declines in one area or another.

And why is this important? Very simply, once the coach has identified asymmetries, he can provide corrective dryland exercises that are designed and prescribed over time to develop conventional ranges of motion (flexibility), and improve dynamic mobility and core stability. And technique training coupled with these dryland exercises will enhance performance; diminish over use injury, and maximize the athlete’s gratification of sport.

Defining these three areas could of course, take many books, chapters and articles. For the purpose of this exclusive article for TriSports.com here’s a summary of each of these assessment areas:

Mobility: Mobility is a type of flexibility, but is dynamic “mobile” and in “motion” actions that stimulate the nervous system (how movements are transferred to different parts of the body). When testing an athlete’s mobility we’re looking at how the joints move functionally (normally) or asymmetrically (abnormally).

Flexibility: Range of motion (flexibility) is assessed in a static manner (not moving the whole body, but the part being evaluated). Static flexibility is the actual range of movement about a joint and the muscle’s ability to lengthen. There are normative values of range of motion which are assessed such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, chest, shoulders, gastroc and hips. An athlete presenting shortness of muscle length will often have resulting compensations, abnormal technique and more over use injury. Very simply, when range of motion is limited then there are observable limitations and compensations in technique – and the ability to generate energy.

No matter how much swimming, cycling and running you do or coaching lessons taken with range of motion restrictions – Self-optimization will surely be constrained and you will very likely not fully realize the full makings of your talent.

Stability: Stability for the endurance athlete is best described as the ability to maintain form under the challenges of fatigue. Core stability and whole body stability are somewhat related, but for the purpose of the types of examinations I use for triathlete we’re looking more closely at the core (above the knees to the chest). Spine stabilizers such as the transversus abdominis and multifidi are the critical deeper lumbar spine and trunk muscles. And a lot of the prescribed exercises are for those muscles.

While for example, the glute medius (often very weak in triathletes) principally supports the body on one leg together with the tensor fascia lata to prevent the pelvis from dropping to the opposite side – with a normal glute medius the hip abductors stabilize the pelvis which is indicated by an elevated opposite hip when examined.

Each of the following five points is specifically why I believe every athlete should have a Functional Foundation screening before and during training. An advanced screening would be a Musculoskeletal Assessment performed by a physical therapist.

A decrease in mobility equals a constant mal-alignment in the body’s ability to move in a symmetrical way.
A decrease in flexibility equals a decrease in normal arc of motion as a result of restrictions in motion by tight muscles and the inability of weak muscles to move a body part properly.
An increase in muscle tightness will maintain a faulty alignment regardless of body position therefore, being inflexible can result in less efficient movement and of course, chronic injury.
A weak muscle will often cause corrective changes in body alignment. Unlike normal “wear and tear” and normal “arcs” a weak muscle may cause abnormal movements.
A “normal” movement pattern sustains “normal” wear and tear on joint surfaces and “normal” distributions of weight and movement.

Oftentimes a coach, or even the athlete themselves, will recognize the need for improvement in technique. However, attempting coach or fix technique flaws without first assessing functional movement will generally be ineffective. Certainly, there are technique tips like how to hold your hands when running, but to accomplish adequate hip flexion and extension with restriction in muscle length is limiting. The athlete with unrecognized limitations in movement or stability will struggle to improve technique – they simply are unable to make the new movements because the Functional Foundations aren’t there.

 

Biography

Marc Evans is the first and former USA Triathlon head coach for the inaugural Olympic distance world championships and the coach of two-time IRONMAN champion Scott Tinley. An author, Marc has three published books on endurance sport training and is the patent holder for the best selling SPEEDO Contour and Swim-Foil training paddles. The American Medical Association presented Marc the “Award of Excellence” for his pioneering work in triathlon.

In 2009, he opened a full service coaching studio near Lake Tahoe, Nevada and works with all levels of athletes from beginner to professional (athletes and coaches – both coached and self-trained) primarily 1-on-1 and small groups.

Triathlon groups, clubs, team and triathlon stores should contact Marc for his innovative TECHform Coaching training camps and clinics that can be held in your city.

Roadway safety is an important issue and Marc founded Honor the Stop (www.honorthestop.org) where people take a pledge to, “Honor those who have lost their lives or have become seriously injured – and agree to obey all traffic laws”.

Contact: marc@evanscoaching.com – www.evanscoaching.com

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